Many of the young Teammate ProCamp basketball players weren't even born when country music superstar Garth Brooks quit performing more than a decade ago. But they cheered, posed for photographs and gave high-fives to the affable Brooks during a celebrity appearance Saturday at the camp in the gym at Elk Grove High School.
"Be on a team," Brooks told the 150 children, explaining how he couldn't have returned to the concert circuit or formed his Garth Brooks Teammates for Kids Foundation without lots of good teammates.
Brooks told the 150 kids from the local Boys & Girls Club, the Salvation Army and the Oasis Trailer Park that even though they might look different or come from different backgrounds, they are all on the same team.
"Love one another. Have fun. Play your sport," Brooks said.
Kicking off his Garth Brook World Tour on Thursday with his first of 11 concerts in Rosemont, Brooks said one of the benefits of his tour schedule is that the travel provides him and his charity more opportunities to meet with kids across the nation.
"Now that we're back on tour, the parties are back in every city," Brooks said of the camps, which are free. "I love these kids."
He didn't offer any basketball tips. "You can look at me and see that I don't play," Brooks, 52, said with a laugh as he patted his belly. But Brooks did bring along a teammate who could pick up that slack for him -- his longtime friend Bill Self, the head basketball coach for the Kansas Jayhawks.
"We played together on the same softball team for seven years," says Self, who met Brooks when they both were students at Oklahoma State University in the 1980s.
Self, who left his coaching post at the University of Illinois for Kansas, where he won an NCAA championship, clearly could offer kids plenty of basketball tips. But he yielded the gym floor to Brooks, who removed his trademark black cowboy hat as he shook hands with his young fans and their coaches.
"This is his show, not mine," Self said of Brooks, praising the singer for being so personally involved in charity work. "Sometimes it's good not to be the quarterback, and be a good teammate. That's what I'm doing right now, being a good teammate."